Olesen holds off Francesco Molinari in Italian Open

Graeme McDowell finishes five off Danish winner as Paul Dunne closes with a 68

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark with the Italian Open trophy. Photograph:  Andrew Redington/Getty

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark with the Italian Open trophy. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty

 

Italy’s Francesco Molinari came up agonisingly short in his bid for back-to-back wins and a third Italian Open crown as Thorbjorn Olesen held his nerve to claim the fifth European Tour title of his career.

Olesen carded a flawless closing 64 at Gardagolf to finish 22 under par, a shot ahead of home favourite Molinari, who had won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last week.

The two players had been tied for the lead with two holes remaining, but Molinari followed four straight birdies by dropping just his second shot of the week on the 17th and Olesen birdied the same hole in the group behind to take a two-shot lead.

The Italian refused to throw in the towel and holed a curling birdie putt on the last from 40 feet to complete a 65 and pile on the pressure — but Olesen got up and down from a greenside bunker for par to secure the first prize of £874,000 in the second Rolex Series event of 2018.

England’s Lee Slattery finished alone in third after a closing 67, despite having to get a replacement caddie after 13 holes after Max Cunningham was unable to continue.

“I hope he’s all right,” Slattery said. “He had a really bad back. Going up one of the hills he was struggling to breathe a little bit and we switched caddies, which affected me a little bit.

“I’d like to say not for his sake, but I do think it affected me a bit. I hit a poor drive off the next and I didn’t hit many poor drives today. Just cost me a couple of shots and they were crucial at the end.

“But I’m delighted to finish 20 under par and third in a Rolex Series Event, that’s a big stepping stone for me. To come here and play like I did and secure my rights for next year, there’s so many things I’ve done this week in just one week.”

Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello was fourth on 18 under with Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Andy Sullivan a shot further back in a tie for fifth.

McDowell had saved his best round of the week until last, shooting a 64 on Sunday to move himself into the fringes of contention.

It ultimately proved too little too late, but the 2010 US Open winner will be pleased with his week’s work in Brescia.

Further down the leaderboard Paul Dunne finished in share of 30th on 11 under par as he rounded off his week with a 68.

He finished a stroke ahead of Padraig Harrington, whose closing 68 saw him finish on 10 under par and in a share of 36th place.

Francesco Molinari missed out by a stroke in Italy. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty
Francesco Molinari missed out by a stroke in Italy. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty

“This is my first time coming from behind to win so that’s very special to me,” Olesen said after a victory which takes him just outside the automatic qualifying places for September’s Ryder Cup, when fellow Dane Thomas Bjorn will captain the European side.

“I always wanted to come up the leaderboard and take the trophy. I’ve never had that putt on the last to win a tournament so that’s why this one feels so amazing.

“I was standing on the [18th] tee and heard I was two in the lead, that’s why I picked the 5-wood from the tee. I thought that would give me a good chance to make four and worse case I would make five, but I was standing there and saw that great putt he [Molinari] holed and that definitely put some pressure on me.”

Molinari said: “I’m super happy to be honest. It’s been an amazing week. I think I’ll never forget the run of birdies today on the back nine. Obviously a shame about 17, but I can’t complain.

“The putt on 18 was just unbelievable. It’s not really a putt that you think about making, but in those circumstances you want to give it a chance. Sometimes there’s just something in the air that makes special things happen.”

Collated scores

Italian Open (Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 71. Irish in bold):

262 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 65 68 65 64
263 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 66 66 66 65
264 Lee Slattery 66 69 62 67
266 Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) 65 67 68 66
267 Andrew Sullivan 67 68 65 67, Graeme McDowell 66 66 71 64, Lee Westwood 66 70 68 63
268 Ian Poulter 67 68 66 67, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 69 68 67 64, Callum Shinkwin 66 71 67 64, Danny Willett 65 67 67 69, Martin Kaymer(Ger)68 63 68 69, Jordan Smith 67 68 65 68
269 Scott Hend (Aus) 68 66 67 68, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa) 68 70 68 63, Lorenzo Gagli(Ita)68 69 66 66, Thomas Pieters(Bel) 65 67 69 68, Jacques Kruyswijk(Rsa)67 70 65 67
270 Haotong Li (Chn) 68 65 67 70, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 66 71 67 66
271 Jason Scrivener (Aus) 67 71 68 65, Oliver Fisher 68 68 68 67
272 Adam Bland (Aus) 70 66 71 65, Charlie Ford 65 71 67 69, Alex Noren(Swe) 70 68 66 68, Tommy Fleetwood 68 67 69 68, Benjamin Hebert(Fra) 70 68 66 68, Bradley Dredge 68 68 67 69, James Morrison 67 68 70 67
273 Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 69 68 64 72, Dean Burmester (Rsa) 70 67 66 70, Paul Dunne 69 69 67 68, Dylan Frittelli(Rsa) 67 67 69 70, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano(Spa) 70 66 69 68, Matthew Fitzpatrick 66 70 71 66
274 Laurie Canter 63 72 71 68, Chris Wood 67 71 70 66, Matteo Manassero(Ita)66 68 68 72, Thomas Detry(Bel) 69 66 70 69, Adrian Otaegui(Spa)68 69 70 67, Padraig Harrington 71 66 69 68
275 Andrew Johnston 69 69 66 71, Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 70 68 68 69, David Howell 69 66 71 69, Matthias Schwab(Aut) 67 71 69 68, Brett Rumford(Aus) 70 68 68 69, Robert Rock 63 70 69 73, Erik Van Rooyen(Rsa)65 68 74 68, Nacho Elvira(Spa) 69 69 68 69, Jens Dantorp(Swe)68 65 72 70
276 Matt Wallace 65 72 70 69, Haydn Porteous (Rsa) 70 68 66 72, Julien Guerrier(Fra) 70 67 72 67, Aaron Rai 67 71 67 71, Josh Geary(Nzl)68 69 70 69, Adrien Saddier(Fra) 68 67 70 71, Austin Connelly(Can) 69 68 71 68, Eddie Pepperell 67 71 66 72, Ross McGowan 70 67 71 68
277 Trevor Immelman (Rsa) 69 69 69 70, Ryan Evans 67 69 70 71, Jorge Campillo(Spa)68 68 70 71, Ashun Wu(Chn) 70 67 70 70, Fabrizio Zanotti(Par)69 69 70 69
278 David Drysdale 68 68 71 71, Alexander Levy (Fra) 68 70 70 70, David Lipsky(USA)68 67 71 72, Brandon Stone(Rsa) 69 69 70 70, Richard Sterne(Rsa)63 72 72 71
279 Richard Bland 70 64 74 71
280 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 68 70 71 71, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 66 71 67 76
282 Daniel Brooks 67 71 71 73

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